“ANONYMOUS,” BY CHRISTINE BENEDICT
LOCONEAL SELECT; 2 EDITION; JUNE 25, 2014
Synopsis: Debra Hamilton confronts the fear of inheriting mental illness when her husband moves her into a hundred-year-old farmhouse on fifty-three acres of blacklisted real estate property. Floorboards creak when she’s alone. Objects appear and disappear. Neighbors insinuate the house is haunted but memories of her mother’s schizophrenia make her wonder. Julie, a neighbor who befriends Debra, faces her own fears when a stalker starts sending perverted anonymous letters that cause a rift in Julie’s unstable marriage. Their plots merge as their friendship grows to create a rich and satisfying story.
“Anonymous” is a suspenseful, mysterious novel by Christine Benedict, mixed in with a touch of paranormal. Debra and her husband Greg move into an old farmhouse that is the epitome of a fixer-upper. Not long after starting repairs and spending more time in the house, Debra begins hearing strange noises and items start disappearing and reappearing. Whenever she tries to convince Greg something strange is going on in the house, he quickly offers explanations such as trees blowing up against windows or just the house being old. Moreover, Debra isn’t sure if what she is seeing and hearing is real, or if she is beginning to develop mental illness just as her mother did. Luckily, Debra befriends one of her neighbors, Julie, but she also has problems of her own. She starts receiving mysterious letters from someone calling themselves “Smitten,” that are not only creepy and frustrating but cause problems in her already problematic marriage. The novel follows the fears and experiences of these two women as they deal with Debra’s strange occurrences and Julie’s stalker.
This was definitely an exciting and suspenseful novel that kept me guessing about whether Debra’s house was haunted, who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. Debra’s character was so honest and real as a former child in foster care after her mother killed both her father and her sexually abusive step-father. Her and Greg’s marriage was sad but also probably very relatable to some people. There seemed to be love between the two of them but very little real communication and affection. Julie was similar to Debra in that she had also spent her youth in foster care after her mother died, however, Julie’s marriage was emotionally abusive and extremely tense. Between the strange occurrences at the house, a cow to tend to in the yard and a rogue groundhog – I couldn’t help but feel bad for Debra trying to acclimate to her new home and surroundings, all the while questioning her mental stability as Greg continuously discounted her concerns about the house. Probably the creepiest character of all was Bruce, the part-time animal control/game warden who had an extremely weird obsession with cats, which I honestly never understood 100%, but nonetheless, he was odd.
The spooky, but kind of cool thing about this novel is the author’s inspiration. Christine Benedict actually lived in a circa 1875 farmhouse that is rumored to be haunted. She sent me a link to a documentary where the Munroe Falls Paranormal Society investigated the home for any paranormal activity. Take a look to see the house, the author and watch some of the investigation! In addition to the author living in her own possibly haunted house, she also had a stalker of her own. All of the letters written to Julie in the novel from “Smitten” are the actual letters from Benedict’s own stalker who was never discovered.
Although I felt at times that things were dragging on or somewhat repetitive, I really enjoyed this novel. It wasn’t just a ghost story and wasn’t just a stalker story, but possessed several elements and subplots related to various issues to make it a unique and fascinating novel. Benedict touched on child abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, sexual abuse, troubled marriages, ghosts, and much more – and it all worked perfectly together in this novel. If there was anything I wasn’t crazy about it would probably be the ending which was definitely a nail-biter, but I would have loved some sort of epilogue or something just to find out what else happened with all of the characters further down the road. Regardless, though, this was a great read.
*Thanks to the author for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Learn more about Christine Benedict by visiting her web page.
Purchase “Anonymous” on Amazon.